tv Moyers Company WHUT June 17, 2013 9:00am-10:00am EDT
our own government has been extensively engaged in our e nails and phone records with the ability to singling us out for scrutiny. big brother and big business have morphed into the biggest brother ever. not only watching and listening, but taking down names and numbers. >> the authority that the analyst is empowered with, not
all theage lists have the ability to target everything. i sitting at my desk had the authority to tap anyone, even the president if i had to. >> as of now, only snowden fully understands his motives and full extent of what he intends to reveal remains unknown. the white house insists looping as a weapon against terrorism. general keith alexander, head of the nsa, told congress this week that the agency surveillance had helped prevent dozens of attacks. a large majority of the public agrees that the spying is necessary. but others see it as an unprecedented infringement on our civil liberties, a massive threat to a free society. lloyd lessick was one of the first to see the promise of the new technology and its peril. in 1999 he wrote this book "code and other laws of cyberspace."
at stanford university in the heart of silicon valley, he founded the center for internet and society. and he's been involved with such advocacy groups as the electronic frontier foundation and creative comments. now he teaches laup at harvard university and directs the center for ethics. there, he began to turn from internet policy to focusing on the corrupting influence of money in politics, which he sees as the true roadblock to american greatness. he's written several books on the problem, including republic lost and master land. and started the organization root strikers to rally citizens from both the left and right to fight fire with fire. welcome. >> thank you. >> so, what do you make of these revelations about the government surveillance of our phones and e-mails? >> so i think it's terrifying, but the particular thing for me that is most terrifying was when snowden revealed that basically
analysts have discretion to decide where and how they're going to be spying. and recognized that we haven't built a system yet that anybody should have confidence about. assuming what he's saying is true. >> is the surveillance, as we've learned about it in the last few days, more extensive than you thought? >> it's cruder and more extensive. >> cruder? >> cruder in the sense that, you know, in my dream of how it might be if we actually had a sensible system developing, i kind of imagined machines that had well-programmed algorithms as to when and what they should be looking for, and when humans got connected to make sure the humans were doing the right sort of thing. but when snowden describes agents how they pick and choose on their hunch of what makes sense and what doesn't make sense, this is the worst of both
worlds. we have technology now that gives them access to everything, but a culture if, again, it's true, encourages them to be as wide ranging as they can. >> it seems to me we're running a dragnet throughout the internet and bringing in almost everything online. is that a false perception? >> well, if what he says is true, then they're bringing in everything they can. and of course, they're applying very sophisticated algorithms to try to pull a needle from the haystack, the algorithms that google employs to see the good ads that serve you as opposed to bad ads. they're using technology in the most sophisticated way they can, but the question is, are there protections or controls, or countertechnologies to make sure that when the government gets access to this information, they can't misuse it in all the ways that, you know, anybody who remembers nixon believes and
fears governments might use. >> nixon and watergate, where there was a considerable amount of surveillance and invasion of privacy. criminal behavior on the part of the government. >> right. and it's not clear there's criminal behavior now. which is an important distincti distinction. we have now authorized through law the kind of thing that before you had to violate the law to be able to do. >> but president obama has assured us that nobody is listening to our phone conversations or reading our e-mails. >> he's very careful. i have enormous faith in him. >> why do you have faith in him? i ask that not personally, but in terms of the office of the presidency. it's been my experience over the years that if you put a tool in the toolbox at the white house, it will be used. >> now, i don't mean that i have faith in him in the sense that i believe he has created a system that protects privacy in the way that privacy needs to be protected, i mean more faith in
his good faith, that what he's trying to do is deal with the threat of terrorism. but the issue isn't good faith in the sense that he's not somebody who's trying to defeat george mcgovern in a presidential campaign, he's somebody who is trying to defeat al qaeda or their equivalents. good faith is not enough. what do you put in place to make sure that the system doesn't run off the rails. that's the analysis since the magna carta about how we protect liberty. what do we put in place to check government officials to make sure that when they behave, this ebehave in a way that respects our most fundamental values. >> didn't you assume that once the patriot act was signed in 2001, we're being watched? >> in a sense, yes, we're being watched. i certainly assumed that there were computers that were making flags whenever certain kinds of words or relationships were established.
i was sure that was happening. especially internationally. but the question, again, is the difference between computers doing it in a well-regulated sense and computers giving humans the ability to pick up and to listen. now, again, the president has said that nobody's listening to telephone calls, or reading e-mails of american citizens. those two statements could be perfectly true and there could still be something fundamentally to worry about. put that aside for a second. in the old days, the thing you worried about is a government agent listening to the telephone call. that was the invasion. but today, when every bit of your life is out there in the ether somewhere, somewhere in the cloud, and what intelligence is is using computers to sift through this and put together patterns to figure out what you care about on the basis of all this information that's out there. privacy must progress to recognize why it's important that we regulate the government's use of all this
public data as much as it's important that we regulate the government's ability to listen to my telephone calls. >> google and yahoo! and other companies say they're not complicit in any mass eavesdropping exercise, and that they have not given the government information beyond what was covered by federal court warrants. does that comfort you? >> they're very adamant that they're not exceeding legal requirements. but that doesn't give me much comfort, because the legal requirements here are quite expansive. i think anybody who believes that a company -- a publicly traded company is going to violate the law to protect privacy is naive about the proper loyalties of these companies. so the question isn't whether they're living within the law or not, the question is, what is the invasion the law is insisting upon. and that's the thing that we don't yet have a clear sense about. and we certainly don't have any reason to believe that
infrastructure is for protecting legitimate privacy that's been built here. even if the government's engaged in a very difficult task of rooting out terrorists. >> talk a little more about what you referred to as the proper loyalties of these companies. >> well, these companies have a job to earn money for their shareholders. consistent with the law. meaning they're not allowed to exceed the legal authorization, and when the courts and federal prosecutors, or federal agents come in, they've got to do what those people say. now, they can fight it. you know, so twitter, for example, has been quite aggressive in insisting -- forcing the government to meet the burden the government must mead before they get access to the certain information twitter has had. google has done the same thing. but the question is whether this is a good way to convince the public, in a puic relations exercise, that they're being as protective as they can be,
versus really protecting data from government surveillance. the reality is, there's very little a company can do consistent with the law to resist the government when the government comes in and makes a demand. >> as i understand it, the u.s. law allows the government to demand that companies hand over phone line information about people outside the country who are not u.s. citizens, if they are proven to be a potential national security threat. government officials say, or have been careful to say that any information on u.s. citizens when they cast that metaphorical drag net can be scrubbed out. if they can't be scrubbed out, the reverse is they can also be allowed to stay in. is that a concern to you? >> the scary fact is an obvious fact that it's cheaper and simpler, and this is what snowden said, is simpler to
gather it all and to have it all there. and for a period of time, and who knows how long a period of time that is, and to go back to it and use it as you need it. and the reality then is that if we don't have technical measures in place to protect against misuse, this is just a trove of potential misuse. now, that's the part that really frustrates me, because i wrote a book in '99 called "code and other laws of cyberspace." my point from the very beginning has been, we've got to think about the technology as a protector of liberty, too. so code is a kind of law. and the government should be implementing technologies to protect our liberties, because if they don't, if we don't figure out how to build that protection into the technology, it won't be there. what's frustrating to me is to hear a description of a system where we don't have any
infrastructure in place, really, to protect the privacy. we have infrastructure in place to facilitate the surveillance. when there are plenty of entits out there, companies like the company called talenter, who has built a technology to make it absolutely -- make you absolutely confident that a particular bit ofused preciselyt says it's supposed to be used, you can find out exactly who's looked at it and what purpose it's been used, there's a way to build the technology to give us this liberty back, this privacy back, but it's not a priority to think about code to protect it. >> is that sort of a burglar alarm? >> it's more of an audit trail. like the thing that you should worry about is that the government gathers all this data, and they're gathering it for the purpose of finding out whether you're a terrorist. let's say they figure out you're not a terrorist. but what else might they be looking at this data for? let's say you say something
troubling to the administration. now, we ought to be able to know what reasons and when they've actually looked and used this data. the point is, these technologies of audit protection, at least make it harder for the plumbers, the digital plumbers of the future to get around the protections and to violate the underlying core privacy. and that's where we should be pushing. we should recognize in a world of terrorism the government's going to be out there trying to protect us. but let's make sure that they're using tools or technology that also protects the privacy side of what they should be protecting. >> for the sake of our viewers who are younger than even you, the plumbers were richard nixon's burglars, secretive operatives, spies, that went into the privacy data about the people they considered their enemies. >> yeah, we call them private contractors today. >> and there are a lot of them
actually. but the people who have to build that system that you're talking about, and calling for, are the very people who built the present system. >> so far. but there are lots of other people who could be brought into this process who don't have a connection to the defense contractor, don't have a connection to the military, who have technical knowledge necessary to make the kind of evaluations that ought to be made here. and you could begin to insist on the standards. we have a conception of bringing judges in to oversee warrant processes. i think we ought to think about making geeks into judges. people who have legal knowledge that could sit there with the lawyer judges and say, no, no, no, when the government says there's no way for them to surveil without doing blah, blah, blah, that's wrong. they could be doing this instead. we have two kinds of specialized knowledge here. lawyers and coders. and those people have to be in the same room as they listen to the government, when the government says, this is what we need to do to keep america safe.
let's force the government to do that, to the lawyers and the coders. >> this technology makes it so much easier, as you said, to invade our privacy, that -- we're profiled all the time by advertisers. what's the difference between that practice and the profiling being done by the government? >> so, i personally love the profiling that makes it so some ad company doesn't serve me an ad for tennis shoes, and does serve me an ad for a great new book that i might have some interest in. the purpose of that profiling is to narrow the information that would be pushed into my sphere, to that information which i want. and i'm happy for that, right? but the same profiling information has other uses, some of which are good and some of which are bad. i think we have to think a little more about what we think is privacy.
if there is data out there that the government can use to build profiles or build or steer the government based on, you know, profile-like data, the way that advertisers try to figure out that if you're somebody who's crazy enough to have bought one of lessick's books, you might want to read one of jeff rose's books. i don't really feel the privacy issue. what i feel the privacy issue triggered is when it ties it back to me. when you start linking it back to me. that i start to suffer consequences, where i can't get onto an airplane, or i see people watching me. that is, i think, what the privacy here has got to be. in my view, in the future the world will be a great thing when big data can sort out all sorts of things that we can't figure out now. when it's able to physician ur out, this is the fear of influenza we have to worry about because we see 17 indications in this part of the world and we
see the airplane links that bring them over to new york. that's the big data we should be able to celebrate. but the question is, are we building at the same time infrastructures for protects the misuse of that big data. the violation of privacy. in my view the violation of privacy is drawing it back to an individual and interfering with that person's liberty without any good showing to a court or a judge that there's a good reason to do that. >> would the surveillance at the boston marathon have caught them, responding to them as if they had just done something questionable. would you consider that an invasion of their privacy because they could no longer, as we used to say, get lost in the crowd? >> i'm not troubled, once we have these data, that we narrow it down and properly track and follow people we believe have committed a crime. we have to do that well.
one of the tragedies that happened in boston is this flurry of images that was sent out there tagging lots of people, tagging innocent people who suffered great loss. in a completely irresponsible way. that's a misuse of that data. the proper use of that data is, okay, we have these cameras out there. we all recognize we're on a camera all the time. we ought to be able to go along in our life without having to justify what happens to have been caught on camera unless in's a good reason you can show to a court and say, this is the person we need to be able to track down. the things that link these people together with a tragedy that happens. >> but who do you trust to make those distinctions and act honorably on the data collected? >> not the government, or the prosecutors or investigators alone. and that's the insight that american law for hundreds of years has traded on, that we have prosecutors, but we also
have a neutral arbiter, a court who's supposed to listen to the government's claim. we need to go after this person. we need to break this person's privacy. we need to unlock this person's car. and decide whether it justifies the government's invasion. it's the need to build this check into the system. law is an important check. the constitution is an important check. we also have to think about the infrastructure, the technology, the code, and whether the code that we're building here just creates this endless candy jar for miscreants to go in and invade privacy, or whether we're building a code that has the capacity to protect us, even as it's facilitating the government to identify criminals engaging in criminal behavior. >> let's talk about edward snowden, the 29-year-old who was a contracting employee at the national security agency. any thohts about his motives? >> you know, he came out
publicly. he explains his reasons. doesn't seem to be benefiting financially from this. he's going to suffer enormous perm cost for what he did. those are the things that have traditionally marked somebody as a civil disobedient. let's be clear, the penalties which he faces for what he has done are extraordinary. today, these guys face life imprisonment, maybe the death penalty. when somebody comes forward and explains him or herself in a way about what's motivating, it's hard not to be moved by that. >> let me play some video of what edward snowden told "the guardian." >> the greatest fear that i have regarding the outcome for america of these disclosures is that nothing will change. people will see in the media all of these disclosures. they'll know the lengths the
government is going to grant themselves powers unilateral ly to create greater control over american society and global society. but they won't be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests. >> i think the thing he most fears is the most likely outcome. i think we've seen lots of scandals that we've not been able to rise up and do anything about. look at the wall street scandal. there was the occupy wall street movement, but it didn't cause an uprising in ordinary people. but i think ordinary people have lost the sense that there's a reason to try to engage politically, because in the end they know how the cards will be
dealt. and the cards will be dealt not according to what makes sense, or what people actually believe, but where the power is. and here the power is both the literal power of the most powerful security state in the history of the world, and also the power of enormous interests to support and continue that state. >> i guess one thing he said, i understand that i will be made to suffer for my actions, but i will be satisfied if the federation -- interesting word -- the federation of secret law on equal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that i love are revealed even for an instant. >> well, i read that to be somebody who cares deeply and loves deeply the country who he is now embarrassed. and i think it's going to take a lot for people to listen to that, and recognize what he's done. but hearing that, the kind of call to patriotism, which i
think it ultimately is, because i think all of us have got to demand of our government, that the government behave in a way that gives us a reason to trust it. and that's not to have a bunch of politicians stand up and say, trust us. that's not that government. >> there are people who disagree with you, of course. the "new yorker" jeffrey toobin said snowden is not a hero, he's a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison. and snowden should go to jail as quickly and for as long as possible. >> yeah, but you can believe that he's violated the law, and believe the people who violate the law should go to jail. but also believe that what he did reveals to america, something america doesn't understand and needs to understand to make this democracy work. which is that there is an enormous apparatus of
surveillance that if it works the way snowden says, is not working to guarantee or protect the kind of liberties it needs to protect. >> we don't know. >> we don't know. but the point is, a free government depends upon institutions that give us a reason to trust them. and if anything, this has brought out the fact we don't yet have those institutions in place. >> i'm dubious we'll get the kind of debate at the core of the political process that you're calling for, and that snowden is calling for, because the lawmakers who voted for these secret programs have a political incentive now to defend them. >> of course they do. and the reality is, however -- whatever snowden might thing or glen greenwald might think, most americans are not in that place. >> the anger at government. >> no. and so i think it's going to be a hard slog ahead. for them, and for mr. snowden in
particular. but i hope that it opens up the right questions. and the right questions can't be, should we give up the effort to try to identify terrorists before they attack. that's just not a question that should be on the table. the question should be, can we build an infrastructure for doing that, that all of us has a reason to be confident in, and gives us the confidence that the violations of privacy that people fear will not and cannot occur. >> you sounded a warning back in 1998 when you testified before -- 15 years ago -- when you testified before the house judiciary committee. you began by describing how the russian people were technologically monitored by their government. here's what you said. >> the russian people learned to live with this invasion. they learned to put up with the insecurities that technology brought. if they had something private to say, they would go for a walk in a public park. if they didn't want to call
traced, they would make it from a public phone. they learned to live with this intrusion by adjusting their life to it. they found privacy in public spaces since private spaces had been invade ied by technology. who can blame them. they lived in a totalitarian regime. the last 20 years have seen an extraordinary explosion in technologies for invading people's privacy, and for a market that feeds on the product of these technologies. we are told that our e-mail can be collected and searched by our company or university. so op-eds advise us not to put private matters into e-mail. credit card regards become a source for direct marketers. we simply buy with more cash. we have responded to this increasing invasion as the soviets responded to theirs. we have accepted the reduction in private space, passive we have adjusted our lives to these
new intrusions, accepting we have been told that this is the way we have to live in this newly digitized age. now, i find this quite bizarre. for while this increasing sovietization of our social and private life occurs, we live in those soviet states, wile passivity dominates, we accept these invasions under these restrictions on our freedoms, yet there is no soviet army to enforce them on us. we accept the reductions in the space of our privacy, even though we are the architects of the technologies that give a fact to this reduction in privacy. and worse than accept them, sometimes we are told we have no choice but to accept them. technologies of monitoring and searching erode our privacy, yet some argue that the constitution restricts congress' power to respond. technologies make it possible from half a mile away to peer into one's home and watch what goes on there, or eavesdroppers
to listen to the conversations in our bedroom, but we are told that the free speech clause of the first amendment bars congress from doing anything in response. our constitution is no pulpit bureau. we are not rendered hostage to the invasions of new technologies. it does not disable you as representatives of the people from responding to these changes through laws that aim to recreate the privacy that technology has removed. indeed, other values themselves as essential to our democracy as free speech should push you to take steps to protect the privacy and dignity that changing technologies may take away. >> what was it at that time, 15 years ago, that you saw seducing us toward this kind of torper? >> you know, i was right in the middle of writing the first book, which was about technology and civil liberties.
and what i saw in that intersection is the way in which technology invited us into the internet with this promise of privacy and this promise of access. but that the technology of the internet was going to change. and as it changed, it would surveil us more efficiently, it would control us more effectively, it would destroy lots of the fundamental values that we thought we were guaranteed through this technology. and what i was frustrated with is people didn't seem to see the way in which the technology invited us in, and then it was a trap. and having developed the political response necessary, even the understanding necessary to resist it, and to reinforce the type of liberties and privacy that is our tradition. >> it's obvious that we're creating a national security complex, that is increasingly imbedded in our way of life. would you say just like the military industrial complex that
dwight eisenhower warned against? >> yeah. but we should remember the first version of dwight eisenhower's speech, which was not the industrial complex, it was the military industrial congressional complex. and they talked about dropping the congress al from that story. but i think that's the most important one, the way in which the military industrial complex is in bed with congress, and makes it so hard for congress to make any sensible policy. so long as they're dependent on the military and the industry to fuel their political survival. >> look at these facts. bruce allen, a company for which edward snowden was an employee, or contractor, the company snowden worked for made $1.3 billion last year, 23% of the company's total revenue from intelligence work, a former director of national intelligence john mccobble is now an executive at booze allen. he's gone through the revolving door. the chief intelligence official
james clapper jr. used to work at booze allen. and earlier this year booze allen said it's working on a new contract worth as much as $5.6 billion over the next five years to provide intelligence to the defense department. now, add that up, larry, and what do you get? >> you get a good picture of the way the government does its work today. there are two very different revolving doors in washington. the defense revolving door is long-standing. you know, people go work for the government, they have private -- they have security clearance all the way up to the top. they go into private industry. they have the same security clearance. part of the reason for that is the reality is the government employees don't get paid much relative to what they get paid in the outside. so here's the contract. you'll have a couple bad years and then have a bunch of good years, and a couple bad years and a bunch of good years. that is the way in which defense contracting works, or doesn't work. the question is always, are the policymakers focused on
preserving this revolving door or are they focused on what the underlying security of the nation is. my own bias is to think many of those people are actual hi focused on the right thing. in the defense department, soldiers go to work for the right reason in our government. eventually they get out into the private world. but i think they were motivated by the right thing. the other revolving door which is washington, is the are evolving door from capitol hill to k street. where lobbyists work. where members of congress and their staffers in particular have a focus on their life after washington. jack abramoff who is the infamous lobbyist who went to the federal penitentiary for his crimes, but has become a pretty important reformer, in my view, after he came back, in his really great book "capital punishment" he describes the most successful technique he had. he said i would walk into a senator's office and meet with the chief of staff and say, so, what are you doing in two years?
the chief of staff would say, well, i don't know, jack. and jack would say, i want you to look me up after you're finished. and he said from that moment on i owned that chief of staff. and not a single dollar traded hands. so when you've got a system where they're focused how they're going to help lobbyists once they're out of capitol hill, how could they stand up to the lobbyist and do the right thing. that's the corrupt system i'm much more concerned about, in being able to make judgments about the future of this country. >> before coming here, i watched a talk you gave on this subject. >> 50% of the senate between 1998 and 2004 left to become lobbyists. 42% of the house, those numbers have only gone up. last april the average increase in salary for those they tracked was 1,452%. so it's fair to ask, how is it possible for them to change this?
now, i get this skepticism. i get this cynicism. i get this sense of impossibility. but i don't buy it. >> what incentive do politicians and their staffers have to hold, whether it's the intelligence agencies that are now privately contracted out to booze allen, and others like that, or any other corporation, what incentive do they have to change the system if they know they're headed to a fortune on k street? >> it's a conflicted inincentiv for people who have no confidence in the institution. in the latest poll, 6% of america thinks congress is doing a good job. 6%. at what point does an institution have to confess political bankruptcy. because we have no confidence in congress. we have no confidence in congress. in parliamentary systems there's a vote, no confidence in congress.
we, the people, need to have the same vote. and we have voted again and again, we have no confidence in this institution. and what those members of congress have to recognize i that they have a constitutional obligation to recreate a context, an environment, a system where we have a reason to trust them. and where they're spending their time, you know, four hours a day raising money from the tiniest fraction of the 1% to give back into congress to get their party back into power. ordinary americans look at that and say, why would i trust you? >> as a former member of congress from virginia, they said both parties have become telemarketing systems, dialing for dollars. >> that's not figurative. if you could get a camera into both, where the republicans do their work and the democrats do their work, it would astonish americans to see these people sitting in these cubicles with headsets on dialing and dialing
and dialing people they've never met, but of course they pretend they know these people when they call them, begging them for money. you know, it's like -- remember the old imablg of the skinner box. you have the rat learning which buttons to push to get the food. r congressmen live in a skinner box. they live 30% to 70% of their time raising money to get back to congress. and as they do that, they're only humans, as they do that, they learn, what are the words they need to utter to the people on the other end of the line to get them to send that $1,000, or $2,400 check. the point is, they're not calling the average american, they're calling people of a very specific set of interests. that's the core of the corruption. >> from your experience, what's been the impact on everyday people of this kind of branding fund-raising? >> well, there's impact in policy. like the things that congress worries about are different from
what congress would worry about if congress were not so focused on raising money. for example, the huffing ton post did a piece about -- they asked the question in the first quarter of 2011, what was the number one issue congress spent its time working on. the floor of the congress and in committe committees. we're in the middle of two wars, huge unemployment crisis, we had a debt crisis, question had a government that was about to be shut down in the summer. there were a lot of issues they could have been focused on. so what was number one? the answer is, the bank swipe fee controversy. the question of when you use your debit card, how much do the banks get, how much do the credit card companies have to pay? why was that number one? because when a member of congress stands on the floor of congress and says, oh, i'm not sure, there are a lot of good arguments for both sides. millions of dollars raining down on that congressman by these two powerful interests that are keen to try to sway congress one way or the other. and so the point is, we have a
system where congress can't afford to address the most important issues. like how much does it pay to talk about unemployment on the floor of congress. how much money do you actually get for addressing issues that are important to america. and i think the really important thing is to recognize it's not because they're evil. it's not because they're bad people. it's not because they're criminals. the kind of corruption we've got today is not bad souls, it's good souls, it's good people who are living within a system that forces them to behave in a certain way to succeed. i think what we need to do is say to these people, i understand, but you are responsible for fixing this. and you could fix this, without changing the constitution you could take the most important first step in fixing this. and if you don't, then you are responsible for destroying the most important democratic branch we've got. >> here's a third term democrat, connecticut representative, member of the financial services committee, a former banker at
goldman sachs, and one of the top recipients of wall street money. he said, it's appalling, it's disgusting, wasteful and opens the possibility of conflict of interest and corruption. it's unfortunately, he said, the world we live in. now, is he just being pragmatic and you and i being idealistic? >> he is correct. it's all of those things. it's a protect of the world we live in. but you and i can't change that world, he could. he, and a majority in congress and a majority in the house of representatives, the majority of the senate, could pass legislation tomorrow which would radically change the way congress raised its money, so they wouldn't be begging goldman sachs or other wall street banks for the money they need to run their campaigns. but they would be getting the money to run their campaigns from all of us. so that they could begin to say, what's actually in the interest
of my constituents. what actually would help america here, as opposed to, what can i not afford to do if i want to continue to raise the money i need to raise from wall street, or the pharmaceutical companies, or the doctors, or every other major interest that has the capacity to veto any sensible reform in our american government. they could change this tomorrow. they should be sitting down and figuring out, how do we put together the coalition that's necessary to make this right. and that coalition is not just democrats. there are people on the right who are as disgusted by what they call crony capitalism which corrupts both our government and our capitalist system. they are just as disgusted, just as motivated. if we had a congress, and leaders in congress who are willing to think about the fundamental reform this would take, they could do it. they could do it tomorrow. but they are too comfortable maybe. they are too weak maybe. they are too small maybe. they are not the leaders that we romanticize from the past. we're willing to say, okay, it may destroy my party, it may
destroy me, but this is what i'm going to do. i think as a person you work for, lyndon johnson, who says to his staff, civil rights is the issue. and they say, are you crazy? you're going to get destroyed. this will be the end of your presidency. your first move out will be the end. he said, what the hell is being a president for? well, what the hell is being a member of congress for? if not to at least change the conditions under which all of us have a completely rational reason to say, that institution is bought and i don't believe what they're doing. >> and yet you see the headline in the newspaper, americans aren't really concerned about, don't care about the campaign finance reform. you've seen those polls. they're not riled up about it. so the anger isn't coming from below to pressure the candidates to do anything about reforming this system. >> in july of 2012, gallup did their poll, what is the most important issue that the next
president should address. number two on that list, second only to jobs, was, quote, corruption in washington. now, by corruption people are not thinking of rob -- >> human nature. >> right, they were thinking about the issue that was in their newspapers every single day. the consequences of citizens united. like the superpacs, flinging themselves around the country to raise money for their campaign. that was number two. now, no candidate, obama or romney, even mentioned the issue on their website. i had a researcher look at that and said, tell me the last time there was an issue that was on the top ten of this list that neither party even mentioned. and he looked as far as he could find and there was not ever a time that an issue on the top ten list that was ever mentioned by either party. there's a wonderful convenient reality of our political parties that they don't want to talk about this issue.
they constantly say it's not an issue america cares about. but i think america doesn't care about it because they think, what's the use. nobody's going to do anything about it. i've got better things to worry about. so, of course, they don't care about it, they don't talk about it, and they don't vote, they don't get involved. because they rationally look at the system and say, the system is bought and i don't have the money. >> you have been putting forward a great big idea that you think might make a significant difference in this, and radically change the system. it's called the money bomb. >> well, right, the money bomb is a mechanism for creating the political power that we need to force this change. the change is not such a huge change relative to what other states, even what new york is thinking about right now. just changing the way you fund elections. but the money bomb is, let's figure out how much it would cost in the next two election cycles to win enough seats in the united states congress to guarantee we get this change. i don't know what that number
is. but let's say it's half a billion dollars. let's go around to 50 billionaires and say to them, okay, we want you to promise, in a kick starter like way, that if we find 49 other people to write a check for that number over 50, you will write a check for that same amount. so whether it's a $10 million check or $50 million check, commit you'll do that. so by the end of this we've got a super pac with the power to end all super pacs. it would be for the purpose of electing representatives and a president committed to identifying the package of reform they've got to promise. you go into a district, and you say, okay, fine. if this congress person is not committed to that, we're going to take that congress person off. >> punish him for not supporting reform. >> right. now, of course, you had jonathan sor ors on your show. jonathan gave us the pilot, that
demonstrated how powerful this idea could be. soros ran a superpac that targeted eight seats. they spent about $2.5 million, and seven of those eight seats flipped in the way they wanted it to flip. in seven of those eight seats, people came out and said, fine, that's right, this guy is corrupt in our view and we're going to take him out. in 2014, if you went from eight seats to 80 seats, and he won even 50 of those 80 seats, on the basis of money in the politics, so if you had $50 million in 2014, and you won 50 of those seats, that would terrify the united states congress. so when you came back in 2016, there would be a lot of people who would all of a sudden magically had become reformers in this fight and we would have a real chance to get a congress committed to, in 2017, their very first bill, being the bill to enact the change that gives us a reason to have confidence in this system once again. it's a huge fight.
the reason the money bomb has got to be so big is that the closer we get, and the closer the k street realizes that we might actually have a chance of winning, they're going to create all sorts of pushback. because if we win, lobbyists don't go away, we need lobbyists. they're an important part of our system. but the value of lobbying services gets cut in half, because they're no longer the fund-raiser lobbyist, they're just somebody giving an idea of what they want. as john edwards used to say, when we used to quote john edwards -- >> poor john edwards. >> there's all the difference in the world between a lawyer making an argument to a jury and a lawyer handing out $100 bills to the jurors. our lobbying system doesn't understand that difference. >> so the purpose of this pac would be to go to 20 billionaires to give $20 billion to $40 billion to reform the system with public funding. >> now, the kind of citizen
funding i think we need is not the old kind, where the government sort of writes a check. you know, $50 million to run your campaign. but a kind where we empower citizens to exercise their choice about how to spend the money that they've got. now, new york right now is considering the governor is going to introduce a proposal for matching funds system to fund elections in new york. modeled on the new york city model. where if you give $100, it's matched 6 to 1. my own version of this system would be basically hand out vouchers, or coupons to every single voter. so if every single voter got a $50 voucher, you say the first $50 of your taxes, we're going to send back in the form of a voucher. you can give that voucher to any candidate who agrees to fund his or her campaign with vouchers only, plus maybe contributions of up to $100. now, that $50 alone would be $7 billion in the system. so that's real money. but the point is, it would be real money coming from all of
us, rather than from the tiniest fraction of the 1%. so it's like the voting system where all of us have a vote, all of us would have a voucher and we could begin to produce a congress that is once again concerned about not only responding to a large number of us in the voting booth, but also to respond to a large number of us in the funding booth. >> what percentage of americans are contributing most of the money for the rest of us? >> well, if you look at the number of americans who give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate, that number is at about -- in 2010 was about 140,000 people. .05% of america gives the maximum amount to any candidate. of course, it's that kind of person the congress people are calling when they're sitth the for dollars. it turns out that's the same number of people who happen to be named lester. we've basically created lester land, where lesters are the
people congress people call to fund their campaigns and they turned around to the rest of us and try to get us to vote for them. in the process of talking to the lesters to fund their campaigns, the lesters have their influence. and it changes the agenda and what's on the table for congress to even consider. long before we get to vote. >> you're a good lawyer. what's the best argument against your reform? >> well, there's a lot of arguments about unintended consequences. i get that there are risks. but the question isn't what's the risk-free thing we can do. the question is, what is the thing that minimizes the probability that we are going to face catastrophic consequences from failing to address the issues we all know we need to address. the tax code, the climate change, having a health care system that actually cures people. financial reform on wall street which we have not really, really begun at all. these are all important issues. that if we can't address, our nation is sunk. and so i understand we need to
worry about what the consequences of this might be. but we also need to act vigorously to change a system which any rational soul has got to believe is corrupted. >> is citizens united, the supreme court decision, enabling corporations and labor unions and others to contribute unlimited amounts to influence the election, an impediment to what you want to do? >> there's no doubt that citizens united has made the problem worse. but what i fear is that we focus too much on citizens united. that was the biggest gift this movement has ever received. the supreme court gave us a gift. citizens united has motivated millions of people to care about this issue, who three years ago never would have thought about the issue. so that's great. but the thing to recognize is on january 20th, 2010, the day before citizens united was decided, this democracy was already broken. citizens united may have shot the body, but the body was already cold. it's not enough to start a reform movement focused on the
idea of fixing the supreme court's mistakes. because if we do, we still have not addressed the fundamental problem in the way in which congress funds its elections. so, of course, i hope the supreme court fixes its mistake. i actually believe within the next ten years that issue will take care of itself. >> without a constitutional amendment, as some people are advocating and working for as we speak. >> yeah. maybe it needs an amendment. but here's what i know. before we will ever have the votes necessary to pass an amendment out of congress, we have got to produce a congress that's elected with clean money. so the long-term strategy might require a constitutional amendment. not an easy task. but the short-term strategy has got to be to change the way we fund elections, and that doesn't require a constitutional amendment, so that we can begin to fill congress with people who are committed to the right sense of reform. they have the power to change the system, and we ought to say to them, if they don't exercise that power, then shame on them.
and shame on us if we don't kick them out when they don't. >> this has really been an interesting conversation for me. and i appreciate very much your joining me. >> i'm grateful you would have me, bill. the edward snowden nsa story is still developing, and god save any of us who draw the moral before the tale is told. at our website, you can stay abreast of what's happening next. also, with 38 million americans collectively owing more than $1 trillion in student loans, we've gathered a collection of voices to ponder the question, what's the best way to solve this student debt crisis? that's all at billmoyers.com. i'll see you there, and i'll see you here, next time.
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we begin this evening with the great john mcenroe. >> well, the economy's going to try to do a lot of things, which is one open up our doors to people, for example, in harlem which is right around the corner from me. so it would be nice to have some of these great young athletes instead of playing basketball, for example, or football, that they choose tennis. and that there's a means and a ways possibly that they could get themselves from doing something possibly not good to possibly doing something great for their country. >> rose: and one of the great golf writers around, jaime diaz, talks about the u.s. open at marion. >> and tiger used to do it better than anyone. just like jordan would do it at the end of the game. that was allure and tiger had that allure. he still has it but he's been fighting himself to some extent and he hasn't been able to do it at a major and that's the ult mast test and that's the thing he lived for. so the drama now is seeing if h can do that again. that's what people are watching
and wondering. >> rose: and some rules for life and management from donald rumsfeld. he calls it "rumsfeld's rules." >> and the greatest risk of people not measuring and not knowing progress, not having metrics is in nonprofits and government. because in business you fail, you go out of business. if you do it badly and you don't measure and you don't get better and improve and you're not competitive you go out of business. the philanthropy can go on and on and on because they have endowment, they spend the endowment, the business doesn't. in government it's always other people's money you're using and people treat other people's money differently than they treat their own. it's just inevitable. it breaks my heart when i see it in government. it's waste. >> rose: mcenroe, diaz, rumsfeld when we continue.